This week Melvin Benn, head of Festival Republic, one of the biggest and most esteemed festival organisers, responsible for Reading and Leeds, Glastonbury, Latitude and the Big Chill amongst others, has been reported criticising the Government over ticket resales. The article posted here on the BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat website has Benn pointing out the hypocrisy between the way the tickets for the Olympics are handled and regulated against the way that event tickets are totally unregulated. He is also mentioned as being part of a group calling for a 10% cap on the resale price on tickets.
We here at Safeconcerts think this is a great thing to do, and will go some way to increase the pressure on removing the profiteering of touts and companies making millions out of overcharging you for your tickets whilst hiding behind the old "we're not doing anything wrong / illegal" excuse.
Unfortunately, we also feel that Festival Republic are giving out a mixed message. Last year they made Viagogo their official partner for Reading, Leeds and Latitude tickets, sanctioning them for all resale of tickets and giving them a massive rubber stamp of approval. We thought that this was unwise, but we know for a fact that Festival Republic are one of, if not the number one event organiser when it comes to being determined to stamp out on unofficial outlets, fraud and touts, so we had to do a big double take when this happened.
Before the Dispatches programme the Viagogo website prominently featured quotes from Melvin Benn, and the press release about their relationship (which you can still find here - check out the spelling mistake in the title). After the programme, and the stink of corruption that it wafted into the collective psyche of the country, this appears to have taken a bit more of a back seat. The quote is still on the website, as is the press release, but with the release of the Reading and Leeds tickets this week we were all waiting to see if Viagogo were going to be mentioned as a trusted partner again. Fortunately this did not happen and it seems that a distance is growing between Festival Republic and Viagogo, and rightly so. The Newsbeat article has put even more clear blue water between these former bed fellows.
It is unfortunate that there is now a call from Festival Republic to get behind the 10% profit cap of resale of tickets, long after we and other organisations have been calling for it, but more importantly after they sanctioned official touting of their tickets on Viagogo. The 15% + VAT handling charge of Viagogo is in itself more than the proposed cap without taking any of the markup on the face value into consideration.
We are 100% behind Festival Republic and hope that this was just a wobble in judgement that will not be repeated but in our opinion it is festival and event organisers who can do the most to make an impact on the touting of their tickets. We have to address the need to return tickets that you cannot use to get your money back. We understand that promoters need to know that when tickets are sold they stay sold, but we propose the following:
Allow fans to "return" their tickets to the original vendors, or the promoter and allow them to go back on sale at face value. If the ticket is sold the original purchaser gets their money back, but if this is not successful then they will lose their money. It's slightly harsh if the sale doesn't happen, but this, in conjunction with a 10% cap on the resale price, will go a long way to having methods in place to properly tackle the secondary ticket problem.
Reading and Leeds tickets are still on sale at face value from all the normal ticket outlets - buy them here - but as ever there are hundreds listed on Viagogo and all the other "Tout to Fan" websites. Only buy from legitimate primary outlets and remember to check the Be Ticket SafeŽ Directory before you buy.